Gabriel Hernandez

SPANISH FORK — Police are trying to determine if a man charged with negligent homicide has fled the country.

Foremost on Spanish Fork Police Lt. Carl Johnston's mind is where 21-year-old Gabriel Hernandez of Orem could have gone.

The lieutenant said Hernandez's parents said they haven't seen him in two weeks, and they're helping police search for their son.

"Hopefully, they'll help us locate him and help him make right decisions in his life," Johnston said.

According to police, Hernandez lost control of his vehicle Jan. 31 and slid into 83-year-old Albert V. Burns who was retrieving his mail at 2000 E. 100 South. Burns died at the scene.

Police booked Hernandez into Utah County Jail later that day for investigation of negligent homicide, driving on a denied driver's license and having no vehicle insurance. Bail was set at $2,300, Hernandez posted it within an hour and he was released.

Hernandez was scheduled to appear in Spanish Fork's 4th District Court for his arraignment Thursday morning, but he didn't show up. Judge Howard Maetani then issued a non-bailable warrant for his arrest.

At the time of his booking, Hernandez's legal status was called into question because he was not born in the U.S., said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Jared Jarvis, so jail officials tried to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Bail was posted while they were waiting for a response. Officials say they had to release him because they had not yet received anything from ICE indicating they needed to detain him.

"If (ICE doesn't) get back to us, and somebody shows up to post bail, then they end up being able to post bail," Jarvis said.

ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said their personnel were not notified in a timely matter and were unable to interview and identify Hernandez before he was released. "Why didn't they keep him longer than an hour?" she asked.

Questions have also risen about Hernandez's legal status in the U.S., but Haley said ICE cannot definitively say whether he was in the country legally because they didn't have the opportunity to make that assessment.

Doris Burns, the victim's wife, has said Spanish Fork police told her Hernandez was in the country illegally, but Johnston said they've never told her that.

"We're not even allowed to ask," he said.

Johnston advised residents to alert the authorities if they spot Hernandez.

"From my dealings with him, he's a mild mannered, normal 21-year-old boy that's made a mistake in driving and cost a man his life," he said.


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